Home » Posts tagged 'Arsenio H. Lacson'

Tag Archives: Arsenio H. Lacson

Mid-term and other elections as reported by the Free Press

hhc-campaigns for rej:acc

May 2013 is a mid-term election. The classic chronicle of a mid-term, and particularly interesting as it reported trends that have become par for the course in modern campaigns, is Nick Joaquin’s Ayos na ang Buto-Buto, November, 1963:

This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.

The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!

The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.

Four elements of the present day are there: the slang of the day; questions of ethnicity, class, and race; controversies about surveys; the ole-fashioned speeches, stumping and rallies.

But other features of campaigns past are long gone: while party-switching is still there, the era of the party convention as a process that mattered, is history, consider this relict of things past in It’s Up to You Now! from 1953:

The Filipino people know that the presidential nomination was not handed to Magsaysay on a silver platter. He had to go to the provinces, campaign among the NP delegates. For one who had just joined the party, it was not an easy task to enlist the support of the men and women who were to pick the Opposition standard-bearer at the coming national convention. Magsaysay’s task became harder because he was to face a man who had done much for the party—Camilo Osias.

There was talk that Laurel, Recto and Rodriguez would double-cross Magsaysay at the convention; that certain arrangements would be made in order to create a deadlock between Osias and Magsaysay; and that once this deadlock existed, Laurel would then be railroaded by the conventionists, thereby making him the party candidate for president.

Magsaysay would then be drafted for the Senate under the NP banner. Thus, the Opposition senatorial slate would be stronger with Monching heading the list. Left no other choice, the best Cabinet member Quirino ever had would accept the senatorial nomination, whether he liked it or not.

The prophets of gloom were all wrong. Laurel, Recto, Rodriguez and Tañada had no such plans; they were motivated by good faith and the best of intentions when they invited Magsaysay to join them in a crusade for a clean and honest government under a new regime—an NP regime.

That era –when parties actually mattered, because leaders had to cultivate loyal party followers– preserved in time, so to speak, as seen in other articles, from the height of one-party rule in United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939 to Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957; but as parties withered, new-style politics would take its place. See Nick Joaquin’s In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957, for a profile of the new-type of leader; and in The Winners ’61, Nick Joaquin quoted Macapagal describing how a campaign begins a long time before the official campaign period starts:

President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.

“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”

He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”

At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.

In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”

Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”

At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”

And there is the story of how every election brings with it an innovation, a raising of the ante. There’s the rise of the celebrity candidate, exemplified by matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa. Nick Joaquin’s classic The “Untimely Withdrawal” of Roger de la Rosa from November, 1961 shows the first steps of a phenomenon that has become part of the political landscape today:

The Yabut broadcast started a run on the bank. From noon of November 3, the bakya-and-salakot crowd began storming Roger’s house, wanting to know if his slogan—“We Shall Return To Malacañang With Roger De La Rosa As President”—had indeed shrunk to a starker notice: “No Returns, No Refunds.”

His henchmen say they were afraid there would be trouble that night, so ugly was the temper of the idol’s fans. The early-evening crowd, mostly from the suburbs, eventually dispersed; but by two o-clock in the morning another crowd, from more distant hinterlands, had formed in front of the senator’s gate and was demanding to be let in. These indignant visitors were admitted and staged what practically amounted to a sit-down strike in the large nipa house on the senator’s lawn.

“Let us not move from here,” said they, “until he himself comes and tells us what he really intends to do.”

Noon came, and they were still there, squatting inside the nipa house and along the driveway, but their leader had still not appeared to them.

Only a few of them were allowed inside the senator’s residence, and there they found not Roger but his brother Jaime, who, when asked about Roger, replied with a scathing attack on the administration.

One thing must be said for Roger: he really drew the peasant crowd, for the faces one saw on his lawn that morning had the look of the Philippine earth: burned black by the sun and gnarled by misery. The men were in cheap polo shirts, the women in shapeless camisolas. It was obvious they had dressed in a hurry. One heard that this one had come all the way from Quezon, that one all the way from Cagayan; a man said he had flown in from Mindanao. All had a common complaint: why did they have to learn about this from Yabut? Why hadn’t Roger taken them into his confidence? They all claimed to be volunteer workers who had used their own money to spread Roger’s cause. If Roger backed out, they would lose face. How could they return to their barrios if they had lost face?

They all clung to the hope that all this was but more “black propaganda.” Their boy had not withdrawn; or if he was thinking of doing so, they would persuade him to continue the fight: let him but appear before them.

A cry rose up:

“Matalong lumalaban, huwag matalong umuurong (To go down fighting, not to go down retreating)!”

Had he lost heart because he had run out of funds? There was still some money they could scrape up among themselves; one man said he had already contributed P3,000 and was willing to contribute more; after all, there were only ten days left of the campaign. It didn’t matter if Roger was a sure loser.

“Let the votes we cast for him,” cried a bespectacled woman from Binangonan, “be a clear picture for 1965!”

The cheers that greeted this seemed to indicate that the Roger extravaganza would, by insistent public request, be extended for another ten days. Poor deluded rustics who did not know that the decision had already been made! They could cheer and argue and weep all they wanted; they were standing outside a closed door. Their fate was being settled, without their knowledge, in other rooms of other houses behind other doors, while they offered their very blood to the cause.

But as the day climbed toward noon and no Roger showed up, hope became feebler, the mutterings became darker. Inside the nipa house and all over the driveway, angry knots of disciples debated what to do.

Some said they would still vote for Roger, even if he had withdrawn, even if their votes should be “nulo.” Others cried that Roger could commit himself but not them to another candidate. The angriest spoke bitterly about the quality of Pampango blood and swore that they would, in protest, go over to the Garcia camp. A few still wistfully hoped that Roger would come and tell them that the show would go on.

By five that afternoon, the hope was dead. Roger had appeared on TV, with Macapagal; the withdrawal had been announced, the change of stand had been made.

That night, Roger’s house stood dark and silent. Gone were the noisy folk who had filled the lawn all day. The angry ones made good their threat and went over to the Garcia camp that very night. The undecided ones crept back to their barrios, wondering how to save face. The trip back must have been agonizing: whichever way they looked they saw that handsome face smiling from posters, from billboards, from streamers hung across roads, promising Malacañang to all these pathetic folk who had hitched their carretelas to a star.

In Winding it up, November 1, 1969, Nick Joaquin reported how the helicopter made its entry into campaigns:

The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.

It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..

Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.

Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.

“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”

The article contains as concise a summary of political strategizing –and the grueling requirements of personal stamina and organizational logistics– as has been published anywhere, concerning Philippine elections, courtesy of Nick Joaquin quoting Ferdinand E. Marcos:

“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”

So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.

“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”

And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?

“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.

“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”

The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.

“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”

It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.

From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.

“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”

But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.

“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.”

And there’s still the clutter of the tried-and-tested. In Final round, November 1, 1969, Napoleon Rama reported that the battle of the billboards was also a battle of perceptions:

As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.

One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.

Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.

The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”

All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.

The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.

While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”

And here, Nap Rama’s article leaves us at the cusp of the world we live in, today, where mass media is king; and how every candidate since then, has had to battle it out not just in terms of content, but presentation:

One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.

In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.

Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”

LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.

“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….

“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”

The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.

Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.

“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”

Advertisements

Filipino political humor, February, 1986

Filipino Political Humor

February 1986–“Amang” Rodriguez, known as “Mr Nacionalista” and famous for his malapropisms, congratulated U.S. Pres. Dwight Eisenhower on a speech the latter had just delivered saying, with a radiant smile:

“That was a great speech! It should be published posthumously.”

Sebastian Ugarte of football fame and after whom the field in Makati is named liked to tell this story about an aide of Commonwealth Pres. Manuel Quezon in exile in the United States during World War II. Vice-Pres. Sergio Osmeña Sr. should have succeeded Quezon as President when the latter’s term expired under the Constitution, but Quezon would remain President. His aide loudly supported him, referring contemptuously to Osmeña as:

“That Chinaman.”

Quezon died and Osmeña became President.

“At last,” exclaimed the former Quezon aide, “we have a statesman!”

When Manuel Roxas, who had been accused of collaboration with the Japanese invader, split the Nacionalist Party, formed the Liberal and announced his candidacy for the Presidency against Osmeña the professional nay-yea sayer expressed the highest indignation at Roxas’s action:

“That collaborator!”

The Roxas won.

“Now, we have an economist!” rejoiced the man of all politcal seasons.

The wittiest of the lot was Mayor Arsenio Lacson of Manila, a man of “infinite jest” and well, invention. Lacson, who was also the best sports writer the country ever had, and even up to now, described a fistic encounter between two old senators right in the Senate hall as:”The battle of a couple of centuries.”

Then Pres. Elpidio Quirino who was suffering from a severe case of gout, received this accolade from Lacson: “He has one foot in the grave and the other foot goosing the Filipino people.”

Lacson called Manuel de la Fuente, the preceeding mayor of Manila, “Canvas-back De la Fuente,” from the once-upon-a-time pugilist’s alleged propensity for hitting the canvas.

It was all in fun, of course. That was the Age of Innocence.

Lacson’s best was probably this:

After a senator involved in a war-surplus scandal decided to run for President, he went to Quiapo Church for reassurance on his candidacy from the Black Nazarene.

“Lord, what are my chances in the election?” asked the kneeling candidate.

“May suerte, ka,” said the Black Nazarene. “May suerte, ka.”

“Thank you, Lord,” said the happy man.

The following month, he sought further reassurance and once more received the same comforting reply.

But how could be possibly win against the formidable advantages of his opponent? In an anguish of doubt he went to the church for the third time and on his knees, torn between the previous answers of the Black Nazarene and his new uncertainty, cried:

“Lord, Lord, what are my chances in the election?”

Said the Black Nazarene:

“May suerte ka nga nakapako ang aking paa, kung hindi, sisipain kita!”

What’s been happening to the Filipino people, what’s being done to them is no laughing matter. Humor out of such suffering should be as difficult of extraction as water from stone, blood from turnip – but humor issues, just the same. Filipino wit is irrespressible. It may amount to nothing more than whistling past a graveyard. But if one can still laugh at one’s situation however grim it may be, it can’t be as bad as all that. Laughter wards off despair. It is also the oppressor’s secret weapon, though not wielded by him; he is a mere beneficiary. For while one is laughing, one can’t be mad.

The best practising wit around these days is probably Alejandro Roces, former secretary of education and author of one published book on the Filipino fiesta and several more awaiting publication. Here’s Anding:

Of a KBL candidate for the National Ass. in l978, Anding said that the man was so old “he was godfather at the baptism of Andres Bonifacio” – which the man troubled himself to deny.

Another KBL bet of similar vintage was quoted by Anding as saying, in denial of his alleged senility: “That’s a lie! I’m not senile.What are the signs of senility? No. 1. Loss of memory. No.2. . . No. 2. . . No. 2. . No. 2 . . .”

And there was the man who, because of the recurrent shortages, got so fed up with having to line up for water, rice, sugar, every necessity, he got his bolo and proceeded to Malacañang where he was stopped at the gate by a presidential guard.

“What have you come here for?” the guard asked the bolo-waving man.

“I have come to kill the President!” said the man, throwing all caution to the wind.

“Then.” said the guard,”you will have to fall in line.”

The Marcos press headlined it as advocacy of assasination of the President by the Opposition.

Anding’s best is probably:

Farmers were constantly being pressed to attend regular barangay meetings where they were endlessly dosed with government propaganda.One farmer was conspicuous by his absence. The, one day, he showed up.When the barangay captain saw him, he said:

“Ah, there you are. At last! Do you know what you have been missing for not attending these meetings? Do you know what’s going on in our country? What’s what, who’s who?”

The farmer said nothing.

“Do you know who is the minister of tourism?” pressed the barangay captain.

“I don’t know,” confessed the farmer.

“You see, you don’t know. It is Aspiras. Do you know who is the minister of labor?

“I don’t know,” said the farmer humbly.

“That’s the price you pay for non-attendance. Ignorance! The minister of labor of our glorious republic is Blas Ople.

Now it was the turn of the farmer to ask questions. Just one, it turned out.

“Do you know who is Pedro Espadista?” he askedthe barangay captain.

“No,” said the barangay captain after searching his memory.

“I don’t know Pedro Espadista.”

“You see,” said the farmer triumphantly, “that’s what you get for attending these meetings all the time. You don’t know who he is. He is the man who has been sleeping with your wife.”

Last but not least, Arturo Tolentino, running-mate of the Great Dictator:

“Twenty years is already too long a period for anybody to be governing the country, and perhaps it is time for the President to retire.”

“I will not support Marcos . .”

“I will follow the rule of law and prosecute (the Marcos and Romualdez families) if there is evidence.”

“The election is unconstitutional!”

And have you heard this one about the American woman columnist and former high government official who distinguishes between totalitarianism and authoritarianism Marcos-style, chiding the American press for its anti-Marcos “bias,” arguing that the Marcos dictatorship is nicer than other dictatorships?

“I wonder if she has read the Amnesty International report on the widespread use of torture by the Philippine dictatorship. You know, burning the pubic hair of prisoners with cigarette lighter, water cure, forcing water down the throat of a prisoner under interrogation until he or she is almost ready to burst?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe, if she were given the same treatment by the Marcos military, she would sing a different tune.”

“What tune?”

“Singing in the rain.”

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Diosdado Macapagal: Man of the Year, January 6, 1962

MAN OF THE YEAR

January 6, 1962

by  NAPOLEON G. RAMA

MACAPAGAL’S “LOVE AFFAIR’ WITH THE POOR ENDS IN MALACAÑANG

HE has been called a colorless politician and a vote-getter, a weakling and a dictator, a demagogue and a crusader, a poor man and a snob, a compulsive puppet and a patriot, simple-minded and shrewd.

That so many so actively disagree on what manner of a man is Diosdado Pangan Macapagal points up the fact that the new President is little known and widely misunderstood. Despite his long years of public service, he cares little for publicity and public relations. He is as old-fashioned as the way his hair is parted — in the middle — which was a fad in the 1930s.

Whether or not President Macapagal possesses the conflicting characteristics attributed to him by friend and foe, he is admittedly an unorthodox politician.

Many times he was a bore on the campaign platform, mouthing all the cliches in the book, except “Friends, Roman, countrymen. . . .” And yet on election day he dismantled one of the mightiest political machines in the postwar era. If he didn’t capture his audiences on the town plaza, he corralled the votes at the polling places.

In Congress he sometimes failed to display moral courage or take a clear cut stand on some controversial and politically explosive bills. But within the confines of his own party, he is Big Daddy; he alone makes all the big decisions. He would not allow his  to choose for him his candidates for senator — or recently his appointees to the Cabinet. This right he reserved for himself.

His main and monotonous theme during the campaign was that he was a poor man. He knew abysmal poverty, he said, and therefore understood the plight of the common man. He was the common tao’s authentic champion. His use of the poor-man theme verged on demagoguery. And yet, none had crusaded as fervently as he for a change of moral and political values. There is a ring of sincerity in his campaign for a better life for the people and a better government for the country.

No one in our history has risen so high in the government service from so humble beginning. His father, a poet and a peasant who lived in a leaky shack on a lot that didn’t belong to him, could hardly feed him. To this day he does not own a house or a lot. He has stuck to simple living. The fare on the Macapagal dinning table is frugal. His polo shirts  (short sleeved) are at least one year old; his long-sleeved polos are of 1957 vintage. It is not hard to catch his wife, Evangeline, puttering about the house in faded duster. His San Juan residence belongs to his wife’s family.

And yet Spanish is the language in his household and often during the campaign he entertained at his friends plush homes in Forbes Park. he is a poor man, say his friends; he is only a status-seeker, say his critics.

He has a strong admiration for America and welcomes American aid and protection against Communist aggression. Oftentimes he was overly fervent in stating his stand for Free Worldism. He wanted the Filipinos to stand up and be counted when it was fashionable to be neutral and safe. On foreign affairs, some say, he sounds like a puppet. Others say he is for what is best for the country.

He can be both naive and shrewd. Some of his utterances while abroad made even his ardent admirers wince and left his political leaders wretched with embarrassment. After Macapagal’s performance abroad, as reported by the press, President Garcia thought him a silly man.

His insistence on stressing the poor-boy campaign theme even before the sophisticated voters of Manila was regarded by many as the height of naiveté and simple-mindedness.

Up to the day before the LP convention, President Garcia, bothered by the 1959 election reverses, harassed by widespread criticism against his administration and worried over his recent heart attack, was still vacillating on whether he should seek re-election or not. But when the LP convention declared Macapagal the LP standard-bearer instead of Senator Marcos. President Garcia decided to run for re-election. He thought Macapagal was a pushover, and Marcos a much stronger and shrewder candidate. If Marcos had won the LP nomination, said one of Garcia’s closest lieutenants, the President would have chosen to retire from politics.

But there, too, are a great number of people who regard Macapagal as one of the shrewdest politicos of our time. Almost single-handed and without funds he resembled a despised party that had been discredited and dismembered. He wooed and won the opposition groups — the Grand Alliance men, Mayor Arsenio Lacson and on election eve, Rogelio de la Rosa—all political prima donnas. By sheer political craftsmanship, he forced his strongest rival within the party, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, to capitulate and endorse him at the start of the LP convention. And throughout the campaign, he tool all these political virtuosos in tow without any one of them giving him any trouble or disputing his leadership. By campaigning for four years in almost every town and barrio of the known NP bailiwicks, he pulled the rug from under President Garcia on election day.

Outside of those who have been in contact with Macapagal, few really know the man. Until now he is still a nebulous public figure who, despite his years in public life, has left no clear-cut imprint of his personality. For sure, he does not have the effervescence of President Quezon nor the charisma of President Magsaysay.

So uncertain were the people of his true image that when the black propagandists mounted their operations, they came close to spoiling his four years of campaigning and personal appearances. In the first of months of Operation Torpedo, Macapagal himself fretfully admitted that it was the biggest threat to his candidacy. He had to rely on Mayor Lacson and step up his campaign tempo to counteract the black propaganda which held him up as a bungler, a murderer, a puppet, an enemy of the common man and a status-seeker disguised as a peasant’s son.

Indeed, even many intellectuals, believing they had uncovered his true nature, scornfully denounced him during the campaign as a demagogue, a simpleton, or, at best, a fake. The pundits, for all their sensitive political antennae, declared him a weak candidate and a sure loser. “Macapagal let the pundits down by winning,” quipped a columnist in an election postmortem.

Macapagal, the man and the politician, is clearly as complex as the latest IBM machine. There are many facets to his character and only those who are close to him or who have had the patience and opportunity to study his private and public life can assess him with some degree of fairness and accuracy.

There are, however, three facts about which there is little dispute: One, Macapagal has been a scrupulously honest government official; two, his was one of the poorest families in Pampanga; and three, he has not enriched himself while in public office, despite the fact that he was a bigwig in the old LP administration at the apogee of its power.

These facts should give us an insight into the nature of the man. They testify to his strength of character.

During the entire campaign, the high-paid professional researchers of the NP turned upside down all records of his public life but they couldn’t find so much as a breath of scandal linked to his name. Neither could they find a piece of land nor house owned by him. He is the first president of the Philippines who is homeless and landless.

It was the poverty of his parents and the suffering that he endured during his youth that endowed him with a sense of mission, tremendous drive and a consuming ambition to be president.

This is the little-known fact about Macapagal: he had made a career of preparing himself for the presidency. Few men in our generation have set their sights on the presidency as intently as had Macapagal — and did something about it.

No president had schooled and disciplined himself for the big job as deliberately and conscientiously. He didn’t mind telling his friends that he forced himself, even after he became a congressman, to go back to school to earn doctorates in economics and in law precisely to prepare himself for the presidential task. To fill the job with competence, he believed, one must be highly skilled in economics as well as law, for the big problems of the country are economic in nature.

Since his school days, recalled a classmate, Macapagal acted as if one day he would be the chief of state. “I will be president some day,” he confided to a close friend, “I can feel it in my bones.”

To his friends his ardent ambition was a fantastic dream. To his enemies this unbridled aspiration made him a dangerous man. His close associates swear that Macapagal’s relentless drive to the presidency was free from the taint of greed for naked power or money. His upright public life and his frugal living, they point out, are ample evidence that he is not saddled with such debauching motives. Back of his presidential ambition is his sense of mission, if you will, a messianic ardor to give the millions of poor in the country a better life, to chart the country’s path to progress and greatness, Because he knew abject poverty, he feels very strongly about redeeming those in the grip of want. He feels that in the presidency he will find such power and authority. This ambition drove him as a young man to Manila to take up law, to excel in his classes, to top the bar examinations.

First Big Break

In pursuit of his big dream, no odds appeared unconquerable to him, even his own wretched poverty. He took all kinds of jobs, including that of writing letters for the unlettered for a paltry compensation, to enable him to finance his studies. After two years in college, his health broke—from under nourishment! He was too poor to support himself and his education at the same time. For two long, disconsolate years he was out of school trying to mend his health and save up for the next school year.

Then his first big break in life came. Don Honorio Ventura, then secretary of the interior, an authentic patriot and philanthropist, took him along with other promising young men, under his wing. He financed his law studies. Now dead, Don Honorio belonged to the noble breed of wealthy Filipino ilustrado of prewar days, now an almost extinct tribe that has been, alas, replaced by a new group of insensitive Filipino multimillionaires who would sooner exploit than help their fellow Filipinos.

There is no way of knowing or understanding Macapagal — his outlook in life, motivation, ideals and political doctrine — without knowing exactly what kind of poverty he endured in youth. His own personal combat with poverty was to color his philosophy in later years and shape his behavior in life.

This seems to be the explanation why, against the advice of his closest friends, he never tires of telling the story of the poor boy from Lubao at the drop of a hat. His experience with poverty has become the source from which he draws inspiration, courage, determination.

He is apt to grow sentimental when he recalls his youth. “I belonged to one of the poorest and most wretched families in Pampanga,” he told an audience in Iloilo. “In my boyhood, I often knew hunger. I remember when we children would ask mother for food at noontime. Instead of feeding us, she would make us go to sleep so that we would make us go to sleep so that we would not feel our hunger while she went out from neighbor to neighbor, from relative to relative, asking for a handful of rice. Many times we would have our lunch at four or five in the afternoon, after mother had gathered rice for us.

“I remember when as a boy I used to play by myself along the rugged road of our barrio, wearing torn and shabby clothes, so pauperish in appearance that I could not play with the sons of the rich in the neighborhood. I didn’t even dare to approach the fences of their tall and big houses.

“As a boy and a young man I knew what it was to live in a nipa shack. When a heavy rain fell at night, the roof leaked. We moved our tattered mat from one sot to another for a dry place on the bamboo floor. But soon there was no dry spot left and we could not sleep the rest of the night.

“I remember as a young student in Manila when I walked daily three kilometers back and forth from the slums of Tondo where I lived to the state university. When it rained at the close of classes in the evening, I would wait for the rain to stop, because I didn’t have money for fare. Many times I had to wait until midnight and walk home, starved and sleepy. I dreamed of a better life for me and for all the poor children of countless miserable families in our country.

“I plead the cause of the common man because I am a common man. I suffered to acquire an education in the manner of a man bearing a heavy cross up a hill. . .with eyes riveted on an ideal radiant on the hilltop. Having acquired an education I could have escaped the rugged life of the poor, leaving it behind me forever like a nightmare, but I chose the status of a common man where I could continue to struggle. . . .

“Deep in my heart I know that for me there can never be a sense of redemption from poverty while countless countrymen live in the misery that was my lot as a child and as a youth. I shall feel released from the shackles of the poor man’s life only when the masses of our people shall have cast aside the chains of poverty and found a decent living for themselves and their children.”

This was the main burden of his message to the people during the entire campaign.

To many the message was much too melodramatic, too mushy, to be taken seriously. It was said during a campaign by a politician seeking a public office. Both his motive and sincerity were suspect. But he is a breed apart — all who know him intimately swear to this. He apparently meant every word he said in that message.

Thus, it was no surprise that soon after he won the election he announced that his top priority program would be a crash project designed to push down and stabilize the price of rice and create job opportunities for many.

Brightest Virtue

Sincerity, according to Senator Raul Manglapus, is the brightest of Macapagal’s virtues. Take, for instance, his promise to the Batanes people—that he would visit them. There are only a few thousand voters in Batanes. On the scheduled day of his visit, the sea was rough. The motorboat captain told him it would be a dangerous voyage. His lieutenants pleaded with him not to take the risk. Macapagal was unmoved. He had promised the Batanes people and he would make good his word. Half way to Batanes, the motorboat was getting out of control; the captain ordered it back.

Undaunted, Macapagal wired some friends in Manila to send a plane. He took off for Batanes the very next day. He fulfilled his promise. But it almost cost him his life for the plane, buffeted by rough winds, developed engine trouble. It limped back to an airport in northern Luzon.

Those who didn’t know Macapagal were baffled by his behavior. Those who have been close to Macapagal were not surprised.

Many dismiss Macapagal’s pledge to renounce a second term as empty political talk. But the men who know him — and some of them are seasoned politicos—entertain no doubt that Macapagal will keep his pledge.

In an interview with Macapagal, the FREE PRESS pointed out the dilemma he would have to face just before his four-year term is up: The problems of the country are tremendous. A four-year term is too short for his administration to solve the problems or complete his program. Thus, wouldn’t he be forced to seek another term to enable him to finish his program? On the other hand, if his administration achieved a great deal during his term or completed its program, wouldn’t the people themselves insist that he serve another term in office?

Macapagal replied that he realized that his administration’s program would not be fully implemented in four years. He would not solve all the problems in so short a period.

It would be achievement enough for him, he said, if he could divert the ship of state from its present disastrous direction and put it on the right path toward progress and greatness.” I am concerned with moral and political values in not seeking re-election. I would like to set an example for those who come after me. I don’t believe in re-election for a president. It is a curse on the presidency. I would like to show everyone that a Filipino president has enough self-abnegation to refuse a second term.”

The new President believes that it is hard for a president who seeks second term to keep faith with the people and the public…

… He has pulled many surprises in the last elections. But the biggest surprise that he has in store for his critics is yet to come. He intends to give the country the best administration it has ever had. he aims to be the best president the Philippines has ever had. He has the courage, vision and patriotism to fulfill his plans.

The new President once told the FREE PRESS:

“I will work myself to the bone to give the country a good government and the people a new life and new values. I will fulfill my promises. I don’t care if I have to work 24 hours a day. I don’t care if at the end of my term I leave the presidency a broken man, an invalid. My only happiness will be the thought that I have done what I could to make my country great and my fellow countrymen prosperous and happy.”

Diosdado Pangan Macapagal, the new President, has a book entitled The Common Man, a compilation of his speeches, his program of government and his philosophy in life. He picked the title himself. He hopes to be remembered as the common man who became president.

The FREE PRESS’ Man of the Year —he had previously earned the title in 1957 — proved himself a dedicated and resourceful campaigner in giving the entrenched and corrupt NP administration the licking of its life. He may or may not prove a great president, but one thing is certain: He was the most uncommon man of the year 1961.

 

 

Calle Azcarraga, March 4, 1961

Calle Azcarraga

by Quijano de Manila

 

A current controversy is whether Manila’s old circumferential road should be renamed after Recto.

 

March 4, 1961—MANILA’S present city fathers should go down in its history as the most patriotic bunch of baptists ever to nurse a signpost. In the last year or so, they have subjected half a dozen streets with colonial names to a nationalistic rechristening. Trabajo became Manuel de la Fuente; Tuberías became Dra. Concepción A. Aguila; Morayta became Nicanor Reyes Sr., and Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

These changes drew only a disheartened protest from a citizenry inured to the shock of going to sleep on one street and waking up on another. But there was spirited resistance when Sta. Mesa Boulevard was turned into Ramón Magsaysay Boulevard and dear old Aviles, the street of Malacañang, became Dr. José P. Laurel Sr. Street.

Now, still another name-change that, in other circumstances, would have been welcomed as proper and fitting has met with opposition, chiefly because it comes as the last straw to a public exasperated by so much name-changing.

An ordinance renaming Calle Azcárraga after the late Claro M. Recto was twice passed by the municipal board, was twice vetoed by Mayor Lacson, is at this writing in the hands of President Garcia, who must decide which is the truer nationalist; the Manila municipal board, because it wants to replace the name of a Spanish premier with that of a Filipino patriot, or Mayor Lacson, because he wants to preserve one of the most famous place-names in the country.

One view is that nobody cares who the hell Azcárraga was; when Manileños say Azcárraga they don’t mean the street—and they don’t want the names of such important streets as Azcárraga, Sta. Mesa and Aviles to be tampered with. Indeed, even the names of unimportant streets, if they are old enough, should be respected, since many of these old place-names which seem merely capricious turn out to have, apart from the associations they have accumulated through the years, an original pertinence—like, for instance, the now-vanished Alejandro VI, named after the Borgia pope who fathered Cesar and Lucretia. Many have wondered why this evil man was honored with a street in Sampaloc. The fact is, Alexander Borgia had a very decisive finger in our fate; he authored the demarcation line which divide the new worlds beyond the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain—the demarcation line which, by a hair’s breadth (some say not even by that), included the Philippines in the Spanish sphere and thus decreed that our colonial history should be Spanish, not Portuguese. Borgia is no name to delight a nationalist, but it’s a pity the name has vanished from the landscape. The more gaudy-minded among us feel that it lent to that dingy alley in Sampaloc a touch of the color, the glamour of the Italian Renaissance, possibly prompting people, whenever they passed that alley, to realize that the history of this land goes far beyond the horizons that confine it and involves any number of unlikely people, from Renaissance popes to Elizabethan pirates. Anyway, a bit of racy atmosphere vanished from the city when Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

In this matter, the various conquerors of the land, with the exception of the Japs, have shown more piety than we do. The Spaniards kept the name of Soliman’s town and maintained the place-names around it: Tondo, Binondo, Pasig, Pasay. They gave Spanish names only to the new communities they founded and to the new streets they laid out. (We, on the other hand, have been vandal enough to obliterate such an old historic Malay place-name as Bangkusay.) The Americans, too, respected the place-names they found here and gave American names only to new sites: Dewey to a boulevard wrested from the sea; Lawton to a plaza formed by the opening of the Sta. Cruz Bridge; California, Colorado, Kansas, etc., to streets built in what was once the swampy interior of Malate.

The argument is that Filipinos are at last in possession of their land and should wipe out the vestiges of a painful colonial past. But Manila has been a Malay city, a Spanish city, an American city, and is now a Filipino city. It could be a Spanish city without any pulling out of its Malay roots, and an American city without any burying of its Malay or Spanish past; so why should its present keepers be so anxious to hide what this tough old town has been? A people as old as the Romans or the English may be able to afford to skip a few hundred years of history, abolish a few hundred monuments, in the name of progress; but a people as young as we have surely need of every bit of memory that can make us feel more intensely us.

If the Manileño seems, of all Filipinos, the most developed, it is because he is informed by a city soaked and drenched in history, a city where every spot of ground is encrusted with memories, where every place-name has emotional value, and where people consequently feel and think and live more intensely than anywhere else in the country. When a Manileño speaks, he speaks—whether he knows it or not—with all his past behind him, which is why his voice rings with such authority and pride. He is no cultural parvenu—or was not, anyway, in the days when every sign post, every street, every annual public ritual assured him of the antiquity of the traditions to which he was heir. The rest of the country may be willing to shed the dark past and start clean, but the Manileño is a creation of the baroque and should not be content with anything less than the totality of his city’s experience—Malay, Spanish, American, and whatever else there may be, including the latest invaders.

Alas, Manileños who have conveniently been blaming every postwar desecration of their city on the “outsiders” who have captured and are now running it may be dismayed to learn that the latest renovation—the proposal to rename Azcárraga after Recto—was authored by one of their own, by an authentic Manileño: Councilor Pablo V. Ocampo, who belongs to the Ocampos of Quiapo, a very distinguished Manila clan. In this ironic instance, it’s an “outsider,” Lacson of Negros, who is defending, against a true son of Manila, the heritage of the city.

 

Nationalist

Councilor Ocampo is a chubby young man who seems to be always abrim with mirth and energy. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the first resident commissioner to Washington and the first Filipino to demand independence for the Philippines in the halls of the American congress. The Ocampo house on R. Hidalgo is one of the oldest and largest on that street, where once dwelt Quiapo’s most splendid families: the Paternos, the Legardas and the Aranetas. An uncle of the councilor built that fantastic Japanese palace in an alley off R. Hidalgo.

Though the councilor’s roots are in Quiapo, he himself was born and grew up in the more modern district of Malate and he knew R. Hidalgo only during the 1930s, when its days of glory were over and it was already turning into a shabby semi-commercial street. Viewed from the sleek newness of Malate, all that old part of Quiapo, from Azcárraga to Arlegui, must have seemed indeed little more than a dump of dusty relics that should be cleared away. But it should be said that Councilor Ocampo is not always for abolishing the old; he has proposed that the pantheon in Paco be made a national cemetery, so it may be saved from ruin.

It was in October 3 last year, a few days after the death of Senator Recto, that Councilor Ocampo first proposed to the municipal board that Calle Azcárraga be renamed after Recto, “as an insignificant memorial to perpetrate [sic] the name and memory of this great man.”

The proposal was referred to the Philippine Historical Committee, which not only approved it but suggested that all Azcárraga plus Mendiola be turned into a single thoroughfare called Recto Boulevard. The name-change was also recommended by the Knights of Rizal, the national directorate of the Spirit of 1896 and the Palihan ng Bayan.

The Ocampo ordinance was passed by the board on January 17, was vetoed by Mayor Lacson nine days later.

Said Lacson: “We can give honor to Don Claro without obliterating important symbolic landmarks. General Azcárraga could probably be associated with many unpleasant things that happened during the Spanish regime. But the street named after him has already become deeply embedded in the history and culture of the city of Manila and has achieved such meaning that, if it is dropped and traded for another, the city may lose a landmark together with its historical associations.”

The mayor quoted the protest of the Manila Realty Board.

Said the realtors: “Whenever the name of a street is changed, property owners are confused, since they find their land suddenly situated on a street they never heard of. The Cadastral Plans are fast being outdated and confused by so many changes.” The realtors drily added that “we believe the purpose in naming streets is to help people find their way around.” And they suggested that the proposed new bridge at Nagtahan, instead of Azcárraga, be renamed after Recto. The mayor himself favored some streets like Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas.

To this, Councilor Alfredo Gómez retorted that to rename “an insignificant street to perpetrate [sic, again] the memory of a truly great Filipino patriot and nationalist may be considered an insult.” And he reproved the Manila Realty Board with a baffling non-sequitur: “Our is a changing world, so that we have continually to march forward with the progress of time. To subscribe to the contention of the Manila Realty Board that the frequent changes in the names of street lead to confusion is certainly not in keeping with the trend of progress.”

The Manila Times had come out with an editorial against the change, on the ground that historical traditions should be preserved and that Calle Azcárraga, an unsightly, traffic-jammed, commercial street, was hardly the proper one to bear the name of so august a statesman as Recto.

To this, historian Domingo Abella replied with two questions. What street in Manila has no tangled traffic? And what tradition could be invoked in the name of a street that had borne that name for only about 50 years? Dr. Abella warned that the defeat of the Ocampo ordinance would mean “victory for a certain element in our community which still maintains that the days of Spain in the Philippines were the ideal ones in our history, and which feels deeply nostalgic about that era.”

Stung, Lacson called Dr. Abella’s logic “a little shaky.” Following Dr. Abella’s reasoning, we would have to obliterate all things Spanish in the Philippines because they constitute a symbol of our servitude under the Spaniards. “This would be tragic,” said Lacson, “because even Dr. Abella’s name, Domingo, is Spanish.”

But Dr. Gumersindo García of the Knights of Rizal pointed out two special reasons why the name of Azcárraga should not be preserved by Filipinos: as Spanish minister of war in the 1890s, Azcárraga had sent reinforcements to the Philippines to suppress the Revolution, and he had ignored a petition of clemency that could have averted the execution of Rizal.

Lacson replied that Mexico City has preserved a colonial-era monument to Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the rape and pillage of Mexico: “And yet no one can accuse the Mexicans of being less patriotic or less conscious of their national dignity than we Filipinos.”

Cries Lacson: “They’re calling me colonial-minded now! This country is suffering from ultra-nationalism. And yet, down in Mactan, there’s a magnificent monument to Magellan, only a shabby marker for Lapu-Lapu. Why don’t the nationalists do something about that? And all this name-changing! They changed the names of Trabajo and Morayta—and that’s illegal. Those streets were donated to the city by the Sulucan Subdivision with the stipulation that the names were not to be changed.”

While the controversy raged, the mayor happened to run into the author of the disputed ordinance. Councilor Ocampo asked what Lacson had against the ordinance. The mayor reiterated his wish to preserve the city’s historic landmarks. Ocampo replied that his ordinance had the approval of the nation’s leading historical societies, which, after all, should know better than the mayor what landmarks should be preserved. Then he told the mayor that the municipal board was going to override his veto and re-pass the ordinance. “That is your right,” said Lacson, “but my stand on the matter has not changed.”

On February 7, the board, declaring that public opinion pointed to “an overwhelming endorsement of the proposal,” reenacted the ordinance, with two-thirds of the councilors voting in its favor. Mayor Lacson vetoed it again and sent it back to the board the very next day, February 8, the 70th birthday of Don Claro.

“It’s now up to President García,” says Councilor Ocampo, “to uphold the autonomy of the municipal board of Manila.” He says he expects the President to sign it and does not doubt that the citizens of Manila are as keen over the measure as he is: “Oh, there will be confusion at first, yes, but the young will quickly get used to the new name.”

Far from being daunted by Mayor Lacson’s vetos, Manila’s city fathers seem to have been goaded to fresh feats of rechristening, becoming, indeed, even more avid to perpetrate, not to perpetuate. Right after the first veto, Councilor Herminio Astorga proposed that Dewey Boulevard be renamed Rizal Boulevard and that Rizal Avenue be renamed Bonifacio Avenue. One wonders how soon the Luneta, the Escolta and Plaza Miranda will suffer the fate that now threatens Calle Azcárraga.

Imperialist

The man whose name has provoked such bitter debate was a local boy who made good, though one would bring down the nationalists on one’s head if one were to call Marcelo de Azcárraga a Filipino simply because he was born in the Philippines, as were his immediate forbears on both sides. Azcárraga is a Basque name and the general was of practically pure Spanish blood. On his mother’s side, he was related to the Palmeros and Versosas of Cagayan; on his father’s side, to the Ugartes of Manila. An uncle of his was a Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortes in 1820.

Azcárraga was born in Manila in 1836. His father had a bookstore on the Escolta; his mother ran a shop on the other side of the Pasig. In spite of their eminent relatives, the parents seem to have been poor and Azcárraga was able to study at Letrán only as a working student: he did kitchen chores in the school in exchange for his education. But he was a brilliant student and, while still very young, already spoke of someday becoming a famous general.

From Letrán, he went to a preparatory military school that had just been opened in Manila, completed his military training in Spain, and was sent to Cuba. He was a lieutenant at 18, a captain at 20, a major at 22. During the Carlist revolt in Spain, he fought on the side of the crown and is said never to have lost a battle. In 1871, at 35, he fulfilled his childhood dream and became a brigadier-general.

Eight years later, he retired from the army and entered politics. He started as a senator, rose to become minister of war, was prime minister of Spain in 1897, when the Philippines was on the brink of revolt.

Azcárraga’s attitude toward his native country has been hotly debated. He is said to have advocated reforms in the Philippines and to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Filipino propagandists in Madrid. But there is against him the sending of troops to quell the Philippine revolt and his refusal to grant clemency to Rizal. Don Francisco Pi y Margal claimed that he made the petition and that Azcárraga rejected it. In justice to the man, however, we should bear in mind that, in those times, all Spaniards as well as some Filipinos regarded the Philippines as an integral part of Spain. Their attitude toward the Revolution was, therefore, what our attitude would be if, say, the island of Palawan should try to secede from the Philippines.

Most quoted against Azcárraga are three lines that Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote in a letter to Rizal: “Azcárraga has written me about the defense of your Noli. I did not know he is a Filipino, but it seems he is that only by birth.”

Yet we know that Azcárraga attended Filipino gatherings in Madrid, that he was present and gave a speech (being then already the top man in the Spanish government) when Juan Luna won a prize for the Spoliarium, and that he referred to the Filipinos in Spain as his “paisanos,” bidding the government to take special effort in serving them because “they are separated from their country and far from their loved ones.”

In his home in Madrid was a painting by Luna of a woman in Philippine attire with a child. Azcárraga himself had sat for the child, and he told visitors that the woman represented Filipinas and the child the breed of the land.

Can Azcárraga be considered a Filipino? In the present advanced meaning of the word, definitely not, not only because he was of Spanish blood but because he could not see the interests of the Philippines apart from those of Spain. He was an imperialist, not a pioneer nationalist. Yet it can be said that he helped advance the idea of the Filipino simply by being born in this country and bringing prestige to it by rising to the highest government position in Spain.

The idea of the Filipino did not suddenly emerge full-blown in the 1890s; it was the result of an evolution that’s still in progress, like all other nationalisms. Athenian in the days of Pericles did not mean every native of Athens but only a small minority on top. Roman did not mean all the people of the empire or even of Rome but only the elite who were citizens. France, England and Spain, in feudal times, chiefly meant, first the barons, then the king—and a French monarch who had brought the nobles to heel could say that all France was gathered in his bedroom. It took a long process to develop the idea that nationhood resided not in the nobility, though they may have been the first to be conscious of it, but in the masses. Of the Congo today, its present premier says that it is not a people but many peoples, not a nation but many tribes. There is as yet not even a minority to start the idea of the Congolese. As another Congo official says: “The people here have no memories.”

Filipino, too, once meant only a minority on top: the Philippine-born Spaniards or Creoles. The name might have stopped there but for an event in our history. In the early 1800s, the Philippines sent its first representatives to the Spanish Cortes. The representatives may have been of pure Spanish blood, but they went to the Cortes not as Spaniards but as Filipinos; they represented not Spain but the Philippines. For the first time the world was made aware that there was such a thing as the Filipino, the native of a land called the Philippines. Once the idea had formed, the Creoles were powerless to keep it to themselves any longer. It was bound to grow and develop, to reach down to the Indios, to spread roots throughout the land till it meant, not the minority on top, but the masses below.

If regarded as a step in this development, Azcárraga, too, might be included in the term Filipino. He was born on our soil, he grew up under our skies, and many of our forbears must have felt the thrill of nascent nationalism when they heard that the poor little boy who had trod the streets of Manila had become the prime minister of that faraway Reina Regente in Spain.

The Street

Indeed the Ayuntamiento of Manila had already expressed its pride in the local boy who made good by naming a street after him, long before he became minister of war or premier. By 1872, Calle Azcárraga was already on the map of Manila. It was probably given that name the year before, to celebrate Azcárraga’s promotion to brigadier-general and his victories in the Cuban war. Contrary, therefore, to Dr. Domingo Abella’s assertion, Calle Azcárraga—or the Tondo-Binondo portion of it, anyway—has borne the general’s name for about 90, not merely 50, years.

The original street was known as the Paseo de Felipe II and did not extend beyond the Tondo boundary. Shortly after it was renamed Paseo de Azcárraga, the authorities saw the need for a circumferential road linking the western to the eastern side of north Manila, which was then a jigsaw puzzle of islands: Isla de Meisic, Isla de Binondo, Isla de Tanduay.

A street, called Nueva, was opened across the island of Meisic and connected to Azcárraga by a bridge across the Canal de la Reyna. At the other end, Nueva was joined by a bridge across the Estero de Magdalena to the Calle del Gen. Izquierdo in barrio Trozo. Another new street, later called Paz, was cut to link Gen. Izquierdo to the Calle de San Bernardo in Sta. Cruz. San Bernardo stopped at the present junction of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. There was an estero there—the Estero de Bilibid—and across the bridge that spanned it was Calle Yriz, which ended where the Mendiola bridge now begins, and where once stood the Plaza de Sta. Ana.

The old circumferential road was, therefore, a wide winding thoroughfare beginning on Manila Bay and ending at the Estero de San Miguel, and was composed of six different sections divided from each other by esteros: Azcárraga, Nueva, Gen. Izquierdo, Paz, San Bernardo and Yriz. By late Spanish times, the name Calle Azcárraga already covered about half of the circumferential road, up to the Magdalena estero. The portion called San Bernardo was later renamed Bilibid.

In early American times, the circumferential road was further widened and straightened until it gained its present semblance of a single continuous thoroughfare. The Americans decided that four or five names were too many for one street and the name Azcárraga was extended to the entire road from Manila Bay to Bilibid. A few years later, the remaining portion, Yriz, was annexed to Azcárraga too. The downtown portion of Azcárraga has, therefore, borne the name for only some 50 years.

The old Paseo de Azcárraga was open to the sea at its Tondo end and what old folks most vividly remember of that seaside paseo is that it was where the gallows was set up for public hangings—not a very pretty “historical tradition” and an argument against this “landmark” the pro-Rectos have missed. The gallows rose where, very appropriately, the matadero now stands; and one wishes that slaughterhouse could be removed so the street, whatever its name will be, could again run right down to the sea, as in the days when it was a paseo.

Today, the Divisoria, Tutuban Station and the various bus depots have turned this part of Azcárraga into Babel town and its uproar, stinks and turmoil are, for provincial newcomers, their first taste of Manila life.

Around Tutuban used to be a nipa village. Here, Bonifacio was born; here, the Katipuneros held their first meetings. Just past Tutuban, near the corner of Reina Regente, was a bibingka stall that was the most famous in the city during the 1920s. Renaults and Studebakers succeeded each other at night in front of that humble shop, where a couple of old women took what seemed hours to cook one perfect bibingka.

Farther on, beside the estero, was the Meisic police station, which controlled the turbulence of Tondo and which was to gain a sinister fame during the Occupation as one of the Japs’ torture chambers. Also in this neighborhood stood the house of a sister of Rizal, Lucía Herbosa, where the hero’s family stayed during city visits.  Next door to it was the house of Maximo Viola, who helped finance Rizal’s books. Both houses—large rococo edifices dating back to the mid-1800s—were destroyed during the war.

Across the estero was Calle Magdalena, at the Azcárraga corner of which lived the Lunas. The brothers Juan and Antonio introduced the bicycle to this country and in a coliseum just off Azcárraga they sponsored weekly bicycle races. A few blocks away, on the other side of the street, was the residence of Don Florentino Torres, one of the first Filipinos to be named to the Supreme Court. The old alley beside his house now bears his name. In front of his house stood the Star Theater, a poor man’s vaudeville house, where, however, some very bright stars (Pugo, for instance) had their start. This part of Azcárraga has now become Manila’s funeraria row.

Rizal Avenue used to be Dulumbayan and near its present intersection with Azcárraga was the Teatro Libertad, one of the most famous zarzuela houses of the 1900s. When the zarzuela declined, it changed its name to Majestic and became a cine. It was pulled down when Calle Oroquieta was given an outlet to Azcárraga. A block away was the Bilibid, which, in the old days, was a circular building within a quadrangle of stonewall, surrounded by open meadows. Opposite the Bilibid was the Teatro Zorilla, the number-one zarzuela theater of early American days. It, too, was a circular building with tiers of windows all around. Inside were a horse shoe of boxes, an upper gallery and the largest stage in the city. It, too, later became a cine, ended up as a bodega. A school building is now being built on this site, which had been occupied by the Naric since the Occupation.

Next door to the Zorilla was the Oriente cigar factory, standing right smack on what is now the intersection of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. On the same site, in the late 1920s, the FEU was born. Across the Estero de Bilibid was an open field where the circus set up its big tent in October. This field was bordered by thick bamboo groves, which, according to legend, were haunted by cafres. The field is now the FEU campus. The estero was buried when Quezon Boulevard was built but a foul vile remnant of it is still visible in Bilibid Viejo and Arlegui.

Calle Yriz, now the final section of Azcárraga, was a lovely street shaded by giant acacias and rivaling R. Hidalgo in the splendor of its houses. Here stood the homes of the Carmelos, the De los Reyeses, the Padillas and the Arces. The Arce house is now the old Selecta; the other mansions have become squalid boarding houses.

At the end of the street was the Plaza de Sta. Ana, now Legarda, which was alongside a stream so clear you could see the pebbles at the bottom but which is now so black and stinking it’s one of the most repulsive sights in the city. At the Azcárraga corner of the plaza was the Club Carambola, where young blades played billiards in the front rooms, card games in the back rooms. Beside it was the old Centro Escolar de Señoritas, whose girls were famous for their good looks, their brains and the elegance of their Spanish. The old Centro was a squat three-story building laced with fire escapes and so many Lotharios tried to climb those fire escapes Doña Librada Avelino had to ask for a special police detail to guard her internas from naughty males.

Opposite the Centro was the rear patio of San Sebastian Church, where charity fairs used to be held. The gayest season of this east end of Azcárraga was toward the end of January, when San Sebastian and the Centro celebrated their respective fiestas at the same time and the Centro señoritas, in pink ternos, marched in the procession of La Virgen del Carmen.

The old Azcárraga began with the slums of Tondo and ended in the fashionable world of San Sebastian and was throughout a sedate residential street. Even the Bilibid was so quiet a lot of people grew up in its vicinity without realizing it was a prison. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the street came to life as carriages full of dressed-up folk converged on the Zorilla and the Libertad. A friskier note was added when a streetcar line to San Juan was opened on Azcárraga. On Saturday nights, one saw the streetcars crowded with wild young men on their way to the San Juan Cabaret.

The present Calle Azcárraga begins with the transportation jungle of Divisoria and ends with the educational jungle between Quezon Boulevard and Legarda. Now a center of commerce, it has lost its acacias, its streetcars, and its fine old houses—except one. Across the street from Carmelo and Bauerman’s is a very long, colonial-style building that has kept its old appurtenances: its azotea, its shell windows and carved rajas, even its original sidewalk. Here dwell two spinsters—the Del Rosario sisters—who have watched their neighborhood invaded by commerce but have, through the years, stubbornly refused to sell or lease their house or have it altered in any way. Inside are some two-dozen bedrooms, ancient furniture and life-size images of saints.

The sisters are the last of their line; they have no heirs, but have three adopted children. They have become a legend. Stories are told about the fabulous sums they have been offered for their house and lot. Once there was a rumor they had adopted some Negritoes. Few people have been able to enter their old house. All around them, their street, the city, the people have been changing; but the years pass and their house remains unchanged, save that during Holy Week, the withered blessed palm branches at the always-closed windows turn into green ones.

There it stands, a monstrous monument against progress, on a street where all the other town houses have either vanished or decayed. This house has survived Calle Yriz and it looks as if it will survive Calle Azcárraga too.

 

 

Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957

November 23, 1957

Why Garcia won

 

THE victory of President Garcia should have come as no surprise to Free Press readers. In a series of articles before the elections the outline of that victory was more or less clearly discernible. Not that President Garcia did not face formidable opposition. At one time, he was not even sure of nomination by his own party. To be precise, his nomination was contested by powerful, or apparently powerful, Nacionalista leaders; the President himself never doubted that he would get the nomination—and win in the election.

Two months before the Nacionalista convention, we went to interview the President. He had been fasting. Once a year Garcia would go on a two-week fast.

“After going practically without food for two weeks, I feel better physically—my blood pressure is very good, you know—better spiritually, too, I hope. A man who has voluntarily denied himself food for fourteen days should not be afraid of anything. If hunger has no fears for him, what has? It is a test of character. Look at me. Would you say, if you had not known about it, that I had been fasting for six days now?”

“You look good,” we said.

“I feel good,” said Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.

“You may feel good,” we said, “but should you? How certain are you of nomination by your party for the presidency? Laurel, Rodriguez, and nobody knows how many others would like to get the presidency. Not so long ago, you were, as far as your party was concerned, a political zero. The forgotten man. President Magsaysay had his own boys, and the Old Guard had Laurel, Rodriguez, etc. What were you? Nothing. How can you be so calm? The convention is only about 60 days away.”

Garcia should be worried. He was supremely confident:

“A president has to be pretty stupid not to get his party’s nomination in the convention. And I’m not stupid!”

Laurel the rival

Was he not afraid of Laurel, Sr.?  The Batangueño would not run for president when Magsaysay was alive, but he was only too willing to run for the office now that Magsaysay was gone.

“All I can say about Laurel is that he has been telling me, these many, many years, how old, how sick, how tired he was,” said Garcia. “I’m old, I’m sick, I’m tired,’ Laurel kept on saying. Now he says he is available. It’s up to the convention to decide.”

Who fought Garcia for the Nacionalista nomination?

Laurel, Sr., at one time, Garcia’s strongest rival. But Laurel eventually made it clear that he would withdraw from the race—if his son, Laurel, Jr., were nominated for vice-president. Garcia did not think very much of the proposition.

“The Batangueños will vote for Recto for president and Speaker Laurel for vice-president if the Nacionalista convention nominates young Laurel for my running mate,” said the Boholano.

The Free Press article, “Lord of the Jungle,” noted:

“The followers of Laurel, Jr., would have no alternative but to support Garcia for president in the convention if they would have Laurel, Jr., nominated for vice-president. If the convention nominated Laurel, Sr., for president, young Laurel could hardly be made his running mate; that would be too much for Philippine democracy, such, even, as it is, to stomach. If the convention nominated Paredes or Puyat or Rodriguez for president, that would rule young Laurel out, too, for they all come from Luzon. Those who wanted Laurel, Jr., for vice-president must support Garcia, if only because Garcia comes from the south.

“The nomination would take up the nomination for president first, then the nomination for vice-president. In the fight for the presidential nomination, the followers of Laurel, Jr. would just have to vote for Garcia if they were to hope for the nomination of Laurel, Jr., for vice-president. Once Garcia had won the presidential nomination, however, he would no longer need Laurel, Jr. But young Laurel would need Garcia more than ever if he would be the vice-presidential candidate of the party.

“Garcia’s position, then, with respect to the Laurels, Senior and Junior, was a commanding one. He had them completely at his mercy. As it became clearer and clearer that all Laurel, Sr., was really interested in was the vice-presidential nomination for his son, Garcia would be reported favoring Laurel, Jr. for his running mate one day, then declaring himself neutral the next day. Laurel, Sr., would withdraw from the presidential race, then enter the race again. Garcia had him coming and going….

“How about Garcia’s other rivals for the presidential nomination?

“Paredes was too new a Nacionalista to seriously hope to get the nomination, and he was soon persuaded to withdraw from the race.

“As for Puyat, not very many took his bid for the presidency seriously. It was just a stunt, many believed—to get the vice-presidential nomination. He would shoot for the No. 1 post, and settle for the No. 2. When Puyat insisted that he was after the presidency, and only the presidency, that he was not interested at all in the vice-presidency, well—who was Puyat, anyway? What could he give the delegates to the convention that Garcia could not give them—and more?

“Rodriguez was the most popular man in the Nacionalista Party, it was believed, and when Lacson withdrew from the presidential race to support ‘Amang,’ the man from Rizal seemed a real threat to Garcia in the convention. Rodriguez and Puyat could take away from Garcia enough votes to prevent his nomination. There would be a deadlock and Rodriguez might well be nominated for president by the convention in the interest of party unity. If Garcia could not get the 60 percent of the votes necessary for nomination, why not give the nomination to the popular ‘Amang’?

“But the question remained: What could Rodriguez give the delegates or the Nacionalista Party that Garcia could not give, and more—much more?”

Garcia, we thought, could very well say to the Nacionalistas who would take away the nomination from him:

“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you. If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”

Garcia got 888 votes in the Nacionalista convention, Puyat 165, Rodriguez 69. Lacson was booed.

“We will win!”

The convention nominated Garcia for president, but failed to select a running mate for him. That was left to the executive committee of the Nacionalista Party, which picked Laurel, Jr. Garcia abided by the decision of the executive committee. He ran with Laurel, Jr., winning with him Garcia said, candidly, that he would have to get a majority of more than 700,000 if Laurel, Jr., was to win with him. He, Garcia, remained confident of winning.

“We will win!” said Eleuterio Adevoso, Manahan’s campaign manager. The people were for Manahan. Magsaysay was their guy; Magsaysay was gone; Manahan was their man.

“Tapus na ang boksing!” said the Nationalist-Citizens presidential bet, Claro M. Recto. He had no machine, no inspectors, like Manahan, but—

“We will win because the people are behind us and they now understand the issues clearly, the resolution of which will uplift them from their age-old problems.”

The Liberal candidate, Yulo, was also sure of winning.

“I have faith and confidence in the people and in their sense of values and their capacity to judge wisely,” Yulo said. “Otherwise I would not be in this fight now…. General misery and economic difficulties are gripping the nation.”

The suffering of the people would mean the defeat of the administration. The people would vote for the opposition.

Split opposition

But the opposition was divided. How could it hope to lick the administration, with all its powers and advantages? Osmeña had lost to Roxas in 1946, and the Nacionalistas claimed it was only the use of force as well as mass frauds that made possible the “victory” of Quirino over Laurel in 1949, but the opposition triumphed over the administration in the 1951 senatorial election when not one of the administration candidates won, and, of course, the opposition won in 1953. The administration could be beaten, indeed. But, by a united opposition.

Yulo’s man, Crisol, however, took a different view of the situation.

“It is the party in power that is badly split,” said Crisol. “The Recto group is composed mostly of Nacionalistas. Remember, Recto used to be an NP. When he bolted that group to organize his own party, his supporters and sympathizers joined him. Tañada’s backers used to be sympathetic to the NP cause, largely because of the late President Magsaysay. But when Tañada severed his connection with the NP’s, his loyal supporters went with him.

Then there is the group of Manahan, and the rest of the MPM that bolstered the Nacionalista Party in 1953. The bulk of PPP is composed of men and women who helped the NP win the presidency for RM in 1953. Garcia cannot count on the support of one MPM because it has its own candidate, Manahan.”

The fact remained that the opposition was divided. Said the article, “The Political Chances of the Candidates,” in the October 12 Free Press:

“Instead of concentrating on the administration, opposition parties are fighting each other and the administration. If the administration wins, it will be from lack of effective opposition. Divide and rule—that was a tried and proven imperialist policy. While the opposition is divided, how can Yulo and Recto or Manahan hope to put an end to the Nacionalista rule?

“If Recto, Manahan and Yulo were to get together, the victory of the opposition should be certain. But they can’t get together. Instead of fighting Garcia, they are fighting him and each other. If Recto, Manahan or Yulo wins, it would be almost a miracle.

“Miracles do happen, we are told. They are the exception rather than the rule, however. Hence the calmness with which President Garcia faces the elections. While the opposition is divided, victory seems to him pretty certain.

“If the opposition were ever to get together… But the President is banking on the individual ambitions of the opposition candidates to keep them apart. He is depending on Recto, Yulo and Manahan to knock each other out for him.”

That was exactly what Recto, Yulo and Manahan did.

End

In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957

In this corner: Lacson

By Quijano de Manila

May 11, 1957–THE belief that the late President Magsaysay started the strenous style in Philipine politics is more affectionate than accurate, for long before the guy attracted notice, another, younger fellow was already startling the nation with his loud shirts and louder mouth his high leaps and fast pace, and his general air of roughness, toughness, youthfulness and vitality.

To post-liberation voters, Arsenio Lacson of Talisay, Negros Occidental, seemed completely new kind of politician, a brute wind hurtling through a wasteland of old men. Quezon had fixed the type of the old-style politico, who was elegant, eloquent and imperious—and a rather jaded man of the world. Politics, before the war, created the only real aristocracy, in the country; the Commonwealth was purely a governmetn by cronies: the affairs of the nation wer in the hands of an elite whose members also laid down the law in fashion and manners. When Quezon combined a white silk suit with a dark-blue shirt and a pastel tie, he launched a style that became almost a uniform throughout the country in the late 1930’s. when his cabinet members took up the tango, every social-climber started dipping and sliding in the Argentine manner. The so-called stability of the prewar world was based on this feudal admiration that the country had for its leaders as rare beings set apart by talent and breeding and ability to direct the destinies of people of lesser clay. A phenomenon like Magsaysay would have been impossible during the Quezon era; everybody would have noted uneasily that he just didn’t “belong,” for the old political aristocrats valued gentility almost as much as they did money.

Government in the grand manner tried a comeback after the war—but the authority had vanished with Quezon and suave manners no longer awed the commonalty. Mr. Osmeña had valid reasons for not campaigning  for re-election; besides, begging for votes smacked of the vulgar. His wife gauged the postwar temper more accurately. Mr. Roxas was of the true Quezonian stamp—courtly and polished and vaguely jaded – but when he attempted Quezon’s grand manner he was rudely rapped by the rowdy new age in the person of Arsenio Lacson.

Lacson symbolized the postwar world almost too perfectly: he was not only a newspaperman and a columnist, he was also a radio commentator. He looked and talked like a stevedore; he was a gaudy dresser; and he didn’t dance the tango. He had no respect for political parties and no great liking for Americans—and he said so, in his newspaper column and over radio. When President Roxas barred him from the air on October 4, 1947, Lacson became the first popular idol of the postwar era. It became inevitable that he would enter politics. A generation that disliked everything old had found a voice.

Lacson was youth itself – noisy and brash and violent. Legends sprang up about his virility and sexual prowess until he became identified in the popular mind with the traveling saleman of every stag story. His physical courage has been equally blazoned. A famous instance is the incident on Pier 7 in 1948, when college students jeering a departing group of senatorial junketeers were threatened with shooting by the senators’ bodyguards. Lacson, then still a newspaperman, strode right up to the drawn pistols, shoved them away with a sweep of his hand, and ordered the students to resume their derisive despedida.

A man among men

From those wild early days when “Lacson stories” were the chief laughing matter of the nation, he has displayed what is known as “the common touch.” He is no folksy man of the masses but one look at him and the man on the street knows that here is a fellow he can talk to with his mental fly unbottoned. It’s a Manila joke that the Tondo goons respect only two beings in this world—Mayor Lacson and the Señor of Quiapo. Lacson has sedulously cultivated the Yahoo manner, the siga-siga style, but one suspects that the bristles on the surface do not go all the way down; for this guy with a pug’s battered nose comes from a “good” family and went to the right schools; this character who talks like a stevedore is a literate, even a literary, man; and this toughie who has often been accused of being too chummy with the underworld belonged to the most “idealistic” of the wartime underground groups: the Free Philippines. One realizes how much our violent times have shaped him into their young face in the old photographs—a gentle, almost ethereal face, quite good-looking, and with a fine lordly nose.

As a candidate—first for Congress and then for the mayoralty of Manila – he manifested the same kind of spontaneity and exuberance with which Mr. Magsaysay was later to bowl us all over. When he won the nomination for the congressional post, he leapt from the floor to the stage and acknowledged the plaudits of the delegates in boxer style – hands locked above his head. As a campaigner, he abolished the era of eloquence and instituted the person-to-person approach, leaping down from the granstand, after having introduced himself, to mingle and make merry with the crowd. Even the barrio-to-barrio strategy had already been anticipated, somewhat cynically, by Lacson with his bar-to-bar campaign tour to Tondo – where, as any Manila policeman will tell you, the distance between any two bars is at least as perilous as the distance between two barrios in the more alarming provinces.

Public office was not to mellow the young Terror from Talisay. His friends say that the enemies at whom he sticks out his tongue perish completely from popular esteem, so fatal is the Lacson venom, and they cite such fearful examples as Valeriano Fugoso, Manuel de la Fuente and Elpidio Quirino. The Quirino-Lacson feud forms one of the most entertaining chapters of our political history and it was climaxed by Lacson’s suspension as mayor of Manila—a “martyrdom” as profitable for Lacson as his 1947 suspension from the air by President Roxas. On both occasions, Lacson found popular opinion, both side and against the President of the Republic. (In 1947, one of his defenders was famed columnist Walter Winchell, who assailed Harold Ickes, then U.S. secretary of the interior, for defending the Roxas ban.) Lacson’s popularity, in fact, disproves the Dale Carnegie rule; he wins friends by making enemies.

Relegated to the background during the Magsaysay era, Lacson has come back with a bang into the center of the limelight: he has announced that he is joining the scrimmage for the presidency. He says he made this decision even before Magsaysay died and that he did the deciding while he was in the hospital for a sinusitis operation.

The political jungle, April 6, 1957

April 6, 1957

The political jungle

The political calendar

It is now 1961 as far as the politicians are concerned. The death of President Magsaysay has speeded up political time. The old calendar restrained ambition; those who would be president must bide their time; they must wait until it was not possible, constitutioanlly, for Ramon Magsaysay to run again. They must wait until 1961, when his second term would come to an end; his reelection would be prohibited by the supreme law of the land. They would be free, then, to run for president; they would have chance.

So  absolute was Magsaysay’s domination of the political scene that men who should have fought him did not dare. The sugar bloc, which hated his economic policies, placed discretion above valor; better a live coward than a dead lion. The hacenderos of Negros cried that they were being ruined by the no-barter policy of the government, but Magsaysay was their “Guy.” They hated his guts, but they played ball. They had to be practical. They could not afford to fight a sure winner.

Recto, who had the courage – if that is the word for it – to run against Magsaysay, could not find a running mate. Nobody would be his vice-presidential candidate. The politicos would have nothing to do with Recto. Not while RM was around.

The Liberals, who were supposed to constitute the official opposition, betrayed the cause of the two-party system, so essential to democracy, by crawling to Malacañang and pledging the President their abject support. So a Liberal, Primitivo Lovina, viewed the action of his colleagues; another Liberal, Tony Quirino, called it “prostitution.” Anyway, the Liberals, too, were being realistic. If you couldn’t fight RM, join him – if he would have you.

Now he is dead.

Before that fatal Sunday when Ramon Magsaysay boarded an army plane at about one in the morning with 26 others – against every rule of presidential security – his reelection was held as certain as – as death and taxes. Sen. Jose P. Laurel, who had run for president in 1949 and was cheated of victory and who steeped aside for Magsaysay in 1953 because he would have been cheated again if he had insisted on running, because it was the practical thign to do, was asked by Recto if he, Laurel, was interested in running for the presidency in 1957. If Laurel was running, Recto would give way and give him support, like a good Batangueno. If Laurel was not running, well, he, Recto, was, and he expected Laurel to support him, again like a good Batangueño…. Laurel was not running; at the same time, he would not come out in support of Recto; instead, he called for “unity,” whatever that meant.

Besides, Laurel was reportedly a sick man; he had high-blood pressure. If he were to run, even if he won, the presidency would be too much for him. He was bent on retiring, for his own good and the good of the nation. A sick president is something the nation could not afford – assuming Laurel could win.

Laurel would not fight RM; the Liberals pledged RM their support; Recto could not find a reputable political figure to run wih him; the opposition, official and otherwise, had only one thought: to play ball. Everybody must wait until 1961. Then came “Sunday.” There was a new political calendar: 1957 became 1961.

Anybody could be president.

The Bridge

As a matter of fact, the President is not just anybody; he has a anme and a good political record; he is Carlos P. Garcia. Only a hearbeat separated him from the presidency, we wrote a month ago. “…the president may wake up one morning and find himself the chief excutive. All men are mortal…. Anything can happen.” Now, Garcia is president.

Yet, a month ago, he was not even sure of his party’s renomination for the vice-presidency. Sergio Osmeña, Jr., a new Nacionalista, had been elected head of the league of governors and city mayors; this gentleman was being mentioned as the man most likely to wrest the vice-presidential nomination from Garcia in the Nacionalista convention. Garcia was “good old Charlie” to his fellow-Nacionalistas, nothing more. Even President Magsaysay was reported not too enthusiastic about him.

But Garcia was a bridge. A bridge is something on which everybody walks to get to other side. Garcia was a bridge between the Nacionalista Old Guard and President Magsaysay. Garcia had his uses. His renomination would symbolize the unity of the party; there was no break between the Old Guard and the Young Turks, it would proclaim. The Old Guard had run the party pretty much as they pleased; every Nacionalista senator was interested in reelection; they all needed the President’s help to insure it. but the President had his own men. These were called, somewhat irreverently, one must say, the “rah-rah boys.” Whatever the President did, they cheered. The President was grateful and some of them hoped that he would show his gratitude by getting them nominated for senator. Election was certain.

On the one hand, there was the desire of old Nacionalistas to hold on to office, to run for reelection, and on the other the desire of “rah-rah boys” to replace some of the old Nacionalistas, who always felt superior, intellectually and otherwise, to the chief executive. If there was to be no break in the party, it was obvious that one set of ambitions must be sacrificed at the altar of the other set.

The Old Guard must hang together or hang separately. Hence, the proclamation of the principle of priority for reelectionists: Nacionalista senators and congressmen would like to remain in office should be nominated by the party instead of others; they had a prior claim! The President’s endorsement of Garcia as the party’s candidate for vice-president again would be an endorsement of the Old Guard’s general position. Every relectionist should be encouraged to run.

Hence the importance of being – Garcia. That is, of Garcia’s renomination for the vice-presidency. That would be the test of whether the President was prepared to break with his party or not. The Old Guard would sink or swim with garcia. If the President did not want Garcia, he could not want any of the Old guard. If he was not for him, he was against them.

The renomination of Garcia, then, was the bridge that would make political communication possible, or continue it, between the Old Guard and the President, between the Senate, which the Old Guard dominated, and Malacanang, the habitat of the “rah-rah boys” or Young Turks. If the President would be certain of congressional cooperation for his program the next four years, he had ho alternative but to give in to the Old Guard, and endorse old Nacionalista reelectionists, including Garcia.

Now, Garcia does not need the support of the President. He is the President.

The political forces

Recto once dismissed the size of the crowds that greeted President Magsaysay wherever he went as sheer illusion. The people did not go to meet RM because they really wanted to; they went because they were forced to; he was the President. The whole welcome was a rigged-up affair. Actually, they were angry with him; they lived better under the previous regime.

The general sense of irreparable loss at the death of Ramon Magsaysay, the tears of millions, the national feeling that the best was gone – even recto must admit that he was wrong. He was wrong about the “unpopularity” of the late President. The people, foolishly or not, loved him. Now, Recto is the heir of their grief over the passing of the man in whom they believed; he had attacked and attacked Magsaysay.

The feeling however, may pass…

What about Laurel?

If Laurel was a sick man before Magsaysay died, that does not mean that he is sick permanently. He may recover sufficiently to answer the call of duty. Already, there is a clamor, by Batanguenos and others, for drafting him for the highest office in the land. If the Nacionalista Party should nominate Laurel, how could he turn his back on the nomination? Laurel probably knows as much about economics as any man in public life; he has written a book on the subject. The main problem of the country is economic; Laurel, believe it or not, is an economist. He would cure the country’s ills! The sick man, assuming he is sick, would bring the republic economic health.

But how would Garcia feel about it?

In the struggle for power, the race for the presidency, a Nacionalista whom most Nacionalistas like – some because they owe him money – the head of the party, the president of the Senate, Eulogio Rodriguez, may come out as a dark horse. If Laurel should decide to run for prsident and Garcia insist on remaining as one, well, how better to preserve party unity than by nominating Rodriguez? Laurel might not like it, and Garcia would, of course, be furious, but what could “Amang” do? He must keep the party together, and the only way to do that would seem to be to run in place of Garcia or Laurel. A compromise is always better then a break. Truce is preferable to war.

Who would be “Amang’s” running-mate? Why not Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez, President Magsaysay’s fair-haired boy? More than once, the late idol of his people had expressed the hope that Pelaez, or a man like Pelaez, would succeed him. An “Amang” – Pelaez ticket would represent the greatest compromise of all; it would mean the wedding of the practical and the idealistic, people would say. The old and the young would be together; the Old Guard and the Young Turks would no longer be at war.

But a Rodriguez-Pelaez team must expect the bitterest opposition from Garcia. Who do they think he is: vice-president? For the information of all Philippines. Why should he stop being one? Why should he step aside for anybody? If he did not watch out, they would be proposing a Rodriguez-Garcia team as a compromise, with the President running for vice-president. Can anything be more painful, not to say ridiculous?

The Mayor of Manila, Arsenio H. Lacson, has indicated his availability for the presidency. He will run – if he can get anybody to nominate him, that is.

The Liberals have, doubtless, their own plans, or are cooking up one. The name of Jose Yulo, Quirino’s running-mate in the last presidential election, comes up now and then. He has money; election campaigns are expensive things. The Liberals need him, financially. Who else could pay their bills? But he is enjoying his retirement. Why take a chance?

The position of Garcia

Carlos Garcia is the President of the Philippines. Why should he let anybody else be? He became president because of an accident. The unexpected death of Roxas made Quirino president; when Avelino, who was much more popular in the Liberal Party than Ilocano, thought that Quirino should step aside for him—well, we know what happened to Avelino.

It is true that Garcia has only a few months to consolidate his new power, while Quirino had two years. But the opposition today is weak. Quirino faced the Nacionalists, whom the people thought the champions of good government; the Nacionalistas would save them from Quirino! Yet, Quirino won – no matter in what fashion – against Avelino and against the Nacionalistas. Quirino won, with a divided party, in spite of being probably the most unpopular man in the Philippines. He was the President, and the President has, behind him, all the power  of the government.

Today, the opposition is confused, opportunistic, and nominal. The position of the Prsident remains what it was: a position of overwhelming strength. His party needs Garcia as muchas if not more than Garcia needs his party. The necessity is mutual. Who is the Nacionalista who will volunteer to tell Garcia not to run for president, to be a good boy and let Laurel, or “Amang,” be president in his place?

Garcia may be a poet; he isn’t crazy. Or, to put it another way, he wasn’t born yesterday. To ask Garcia to step aside for Laurel or Rodriguez or what-have-you would be equivalent to the attempt to get the late President Magsaysay to agree to six-year term without reelection when he was certain of two full terms, or a total pf eight years as president. It would be to insult the intelligence.

Garcia, as president, has the following advantages:

  1. The powers of the office.
  2. The venality of politicians.
  3. The need of the party.
  4. The weakness of the opposition.

Nacionalista reelectionists need the help of the President to feel sure of reelection. The Constitution has mane the President too powerful, constitutionalist like to complain. Well, the President is indeed powerful, and his party needs his cooperation if it would be certain of winning.

Pork barrel funds are released – upon order of the President. Who would vote for a Nacionalista if he had no pork barrel? Who would vote for a Liberal, for that matter? The pork barrel – that is decisive. And the President is sitting on it.

The opposition is weak. There is no need for an extraordinary political team to defeat it. if Garcia is a”non-descript” politician, as the magazine Time called him, he will do; what is decisive is not his personality but his position. He is sufficient unto the day, politically speaking. Nobody can beat him. If his own collegues in the party, that is, do not start rocking the boat. Even then….

“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you, Garcia could very well tell too-ambitious Nacionalistas. “If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”

If the Nacionalista Party does not nominate Garcia for president, what is to prevent Garcia from using the full strength of the government to make a non-Nacionalista candidate win? He could go over to Recto, in desperation. A deal could be made with the Liberals and Democrats. Having lost his party’s nomination for president, President Garcia would have nothing to lose, whatever he might do. He would be a dead duck, politically, if he stayed a good, because obedient, Nacionalista. But he could make trouble for his party – and perhaps, come out ahead.

Whatever happened, Garcia would have what the world of the duel would call “satisfaction.”

Jackals and Hyenas

Mayor Lacson of Manila, recovering from an operation for sinusitis, observed, on the death of Magsaysay:

“The jackals and hyenas will now fight and snap at each other for the privilege of devouring the country’s entrails.”

We do not know whether the Mayor was referring to all those who would be president of the Philippines, but we do know politics is a jungle. Anybody is fair game. There may be honor among thieves, but anything goes with politicians. Present company, of course, always excepted. There are men of honor in politics, we have no doubt. The fact remains that the rule in politics is: Each man for himself, and the Devil may take the hindmost. He who does not think of himself first will find himself subordinate to another. One man’s loss is another man’s gain, one man’s demotion another man’s promotion. There is no morality, only expediency, no friends, only followers.

It is better to be loved than to be feared, if all men were good, as Machiavelli once said. In the jungle of politics, it is better to be feared than loved – as one walks among the tigers and lions, if not jackals and hyenas, of that world.

Today, Garcia walks alone. It is better, if he would stay where he is, if he would not get hurt, to be feared by those who would take his place; meanwhile, it would do no harm if, while being feared by the ambitious, he manages to win the love of the people.

He has only a little time to do it.

The Church under attack, May 5, 1956

THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
May 5, 1956

There is a new outburst of anti-clericalism as Catholic politicians denounce the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to the bill requiring Filipino students to read the two controversial novels of Rizal

By Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

NOT for a long time has the Catholic Church, or, at any rate, the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, been subjected to such attacks as it has for the last two weeks. Archbishops, accustomed to having high government officials kiss the ring of their office, were mocked and ridiculed, were called enemies of freedom, to great applause. Catholic political leaders led the attack….

Did the hierarchy expect the attacks when it issued the pastoral letter objecting to the Senate bill which would make the two novels of Rizal required reading in all public schools—novels the hierarchy considered impious and heretical? If it did, and went ahead just the same and registered its objection, it could only be because of an overriding concern for the safety of the Faith; to read Rizal is to endanger it. A temporary embarrassment is nothing in the light of eternity; the Church is 2,000 years old; it will still be standing when the supporters of the bill are no longer around. The Senate, as it is presently composed, will not prevail against it. Thus, perhaps, wen the thought of the churchmen. It was a calculated risk.

It was all very surprising. A month ago, one could not have imagined a Filipino politician speaking in any but the most respectful terms of the prelates of the Church; he would have considered it political suicide to express himself critically of them. Now all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind. Anything goes. There is a new freedom, or, to put it another way, license.

The Church has grown in power and influence since the days immediately following the Revolution. Then every other Filipino leader seemed to be the critic if not the enemy of the Church. Many had lost their faith; even among those who retained it, there were not a few who were, in some degree, anti-clerical. The women were pious but the men were something else. During Mass, when the priest turned around to deliver a sermon, the men would walk out of the church; when the priest was done, they would come back. “Do what I say, but don’t do what I do,” the men would say, referring to the man of God.

In time, many Filipino leaders returned to the Church, abjuring Masonry as in the case of the late President Quezon; they became quite devout. It no longer seemed queer to be a priest or to listen to one. The Church grew in prestige. When a Protestant, Camilo Osias, made known his intention to run for president, he was told he couldn’t win; he was not a Catholic. He could be a senator; he was. He could never be president. He must face the facts of political life. When he wouldn’t, and bolted to the other side, he couldn’t even get elected as senator.

If Ramon Magsaysay is president of the Philippines today, it is due not a little to the help of the Church. The hierarchy, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the perpetuation of the Quirino administration through electoral fraud and terrorism would eventually drive the people into Communism, urged the faithful to keep the elections free. Free elections would mean the defeat of the Quirino administration. The Church couldn’t help that. The elections were free, and there was a new administration.
(more…)

Lacson’s defiance, editorial, July 18, 1953

Lacson’s defiance
July 18, 1953

MANILANS who saw scout and armored trucks menacingly rumble through the streets of the city last Monday evening, with mounted machine guns manned by soldiers in full battle regalia, at once thought that either the Huks had swooped down on the city or a foreign enemy had just landed. Many a city resident was truly scared by the presence of the battle wagons, with soldiers who were armed to the teeth, as they rolled grimly through the metropolis.

But there was no Huk invasion. Nor was there an invasion to be repelled. They were merely soldiers from Camp Murphy who were responding to a frantic call from their boss—Secretary of Justice and National Defense Oscar Castelo, who was at the Shellborne Hotel.

Why did Mr. Castelo call for the army and the constabulary at that time of the night? And why so many men in arms and in battle uniform?

According to the secretary, his life was being threatened by City Mayor Arsenio Lacson and his men, numbering about 40. They were right around the premises of the Shellborne, the secretary said, lying in ambush for him. Castelo felt certain that Lacson was out to murder him that night. Hence, the SOS to Camp Murphy—which was promptly and adequately answered.

But Mayor Lacson vehemently denied Castelo’s allegation, said he was not at the Shellborne, but in another adjacent place, waiting, for a call from somebody to make arrangements with Florentino “Scarface” Suarez who was going to “spill the beans” that night on the Monroy murder. Suarez’ confession was going to be tape-recorded by the mayor, in the presence of newspapermen, newsphotographers and members of the police department.

The armed forces were merely obeying Castelo’s order to arrest Lacson. But the city mayor defied the secretary’s order because the arresting officer had no warrant of arrest. “Mr. Castelo should come and personally arrest me and I’ll break his neck,” Lacson is said to have told newsmen in a moment of excitement.

If Secretary Castelo’s real purpose was merely to have Lacson arrested, why didn’t he do the usual thing under the circumstances: call for a squad of Manila policemen (of whom we have a number) and order the cops to nab the city mayors? And since he is the secretary of justice, although on leave, why didn’t he first secure a warrant of arrest from any of the many Manila judges before ordering the arrest of Lacson? It becomes obvious that in summoning the army and the constabulary to “pinch” the mayor of Manila, Mr. Castelo was trying to impress all and sundry that being the biggest boss of the army, the men in that organization were at his beck and call, and that any time he could summon a battalion to parade before people he wants properly “impressed.”

Unfortunately, he met one who refused to be impressed—Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson.

One must die, May 7, 1949

One Must Die

by Teodoro M. Locsin

Staff Member

May 7, 1949–I KNEW both Luis Taruc and Philip Buencamino III. Taruc has disclaimed responsibility for the murder of Philip, but in the absence of evidence other than the word of Taruc, one must conclude that Philip was killed, if not at the order of Taruc, at any rate by his men.

This is the story of two men, who had never met each other, as far as I know, yet one must die because the world apparently was not big enough for the two of them. Yet Taruc felt, I am sure, no personal animus against the dead man. What he did, he did as a matter of principle. Unless it was all a senseless accident.

I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.

Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.

Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side.

The paper was pro-Osmeña and against the rest of the government. It was anti-collaborationist and, later, anti-parity. It leaned to the left and praised the wartime record of the Hukbalahap. One day a small, thin-faced man, timid-looking, shy, showed up at the office. He came to thank us for our editorial policy. His name, he said, was Luis Taruc.

During the war, I carried a message of Taruc’s to Negros where it was flashed to Australia by the radio station established on the island by Villamor. The message was addressed to General MacArthur and offered to the general all the forces of the Hukbalahap in the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. When the Americans came, Taruc was arrested and, with the most prominent collaborators, imprisoned in Iwahig.

Seeing Taruc for the first time, I thought he was a government clerk, with some petty complaint, until he gave his name. He was humbled, unobtrusive; he seemed like a man other men usually pushed around. He talked softly, in a low voice. Later, in another meeting, he was to take correction mildly, without rancor. A man who had no vanity. I did not know of the will of steel underneath, of the fire burning in his brain. I should have known, for I knew enough about Communism, that here was a man who had declared war on all the non-Communist world.

I liked him because he was brave; it was only later that I was to learn that he was also ruthless. As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.

After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.

Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.

He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.

When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.

He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.

At that time it seemed entirely possible and such was the belief of men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the Communist world could live in good faith with the non-Communist. Recent events have proved the falsity of the proposition. . . . Mentally dishonest Filipinos pay lip service to human liberty, still invoke freedom of speech and the press, but their heart is with the totalitarian system. They do not love liberty, they only make use of it. When they are in power, they will erase the infamy.

I met Luis Taruc once, twice, and I met him again before he took to the “field” in 1946, after the election of Roxas and after he (Taruc) had, anyway in my opinion, been cheated by an unscrupulous majority of his seat in the House of Representatives. I know little of the man except that he is, within his lights and according to his definition of the word, honest. He is self-denying. He believes in Marx. He loves the peasants. There is nothing he would not do for them and there is nothing he would not do to them, for what he considers their good. He is not a man but an instrument of the party to which he belongs. He cannot call his life his own, and there is no life he would spare in the pursuit of the Communist dream.

I interviewed him in a tailor shop, just before he took to the mountains. With him were dark-skinned, burly mean: his bodyguards. He spoke of being prepared to accept martyrdom. He was not afraid to die. That is what makes him so formidable an adversary. He had no pity, and he is brave. It is proper and fitting that he should be the commander-in-chief of the Hukbalahap, the military instrument of the Communist party of the Philippines.

When next we met, it was at the Quirino residence on Dewey Boulevard where he was being kept by the government in “protective custody” after the grant of amnesty. We shook hands and he embraced me. Later during the interview, I told him to stop repeating the Communist jargon, to talk like a man. He accepted the correction with a humble smile. It was the only way he could talk, he said.

What can one say of Taruc? A man without pretension, who does not live for himself, who is willing to die for his convictions. . . but who would make it impossible, with power his for others to life for theirs. He is the New Man, who has no country but Russia, no home but Moscow, and dreaming of a Communist Philippines, will take criticism, or a life, with a smile.

It is still possible to build a bridge between the two ways of life: ours and Taruc’s? Or must one die? The difficulties seem insuperable. The Communists are not the kind to tolerate any way of life other than theirs. They speak of peace, but it is only the peace of dictatorship, the peace of the slave state. And how are we girding for the struggle? Are we doing what must be done, or are we merely talking, talking about it? Must we lose the Battle of Survival?